Alpaca’s Wool: Is It sustainable?
Every 1st of August, the “National Alpaca Day” is celebrated in Perú, such a great opportunity to recognize the mystical work that Alpaca breeders carry out daily in the 17 producing regions of Perú. There are more than 3.7 million Alpacas worldwide, which represents 87% of the world population, with the Huacaya and Suri breeds predominating.
It’s a natural fabric that belongs to the so-called noble fibers, such as Mohair, Cashmere or Angora. It has a wide range of natural colors (20 or more) ranging from white to black, through light brown, dark brown or gray. The main Alpaca wool´s producers are in Perú and Bolivia.
Alpacas live in large herds that graze in the high Andean areas at 3.000-4.000 meters above sea level. The weather conditions in which they live (with sudden temperature changes, strong winds, extremely high solar radiation and a low concentration of oxygen) have led them to develop a very resistant and high-quality fur.
Types of Alpaca’s wool
There are three types of Alpaca’s wool: Alpaca Fleeze, Baby Alpaca, which is the fiber that comes from the first shearing done in the life of an alpaca when they are 3 years old, this fiber has an enormous and extremely soft quality and Royal Alpaca, which is a selection of the best Baby Alpaca fibers and only 1% of the world production of alpaca fiber corresponds to this variety. Other types are Huarizo, used to make knitted fabrics and Gruesa with which rugs, tapestries and linings are made.
Alpaca’s Wool Production Process: Quality Assurance Certification
Between the months of November and April, Alpacas are sheared with a knife or scissors, then the hair is manually classified into different groups depending on its origin, color, quality, and length by expert hands that carry out this work by using ancestral techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation. It is not a process that can be mechanized. The best way to check if the Alpaca garment or accessory you are getting complies with the quality standards is by looking into the Alpaca Mark tag that is provided by IAA International Alpaca Association based in Arequipa, Perú, ISO 9001 certification among other type of certifications.
Alpaca’s Wool: Product’s certifications
Fashion is the second most contaminating industry that not only affects ecosystems, but has been associated with complex social compliance issues such as child labor, workers’ wages, and benefits, as well as health and safety issues. Due to this, the demand for certified sustainable products is growing. Certifications such as ISO45001 Health and Safety Management System, GOTS global Organic Textile Standard that aims to ensure the organic condition of textile products, from the manufacture of the raw material, RWS standard for responsible wool, OCS organic content standard, IVN Nature Standards among others are currently available, but there is still opportunities of improvement in regards of the supervision and control of its compliance.
Alpaca’s Wool Main Benefits
Among the main advantages and benefits of Alpaca wool, we can mention the following:
a) It is warmer and stronger than sheep wool.
b) It is hypoallergenic, unlike sheep wool, it does not contain lanolin.
c) Offers thermal insulation.
d) Its level of comfort is extremely high.
e) It has a wide palette of natural colors (20 or more).
f) It is silky and shiny, it does not lose its shine after dyeing and washing.
g) It is light and comfortable, despite being a very warm fiber.
h) It’s elastic and resistant.
i) It’s fire resistant.
j) It is durable, garments last for many years, they do not break, deform, or wear through use.
k) It is also not affected by fungi and other microorganisms.